Nutrition program promotes a healthy student body
Virginia Tech students polish off staggering quantities of pizza, ice cream, and pasta every day, just like other college students across the globe. But Hokies enjoy a resource many students don't--access to personalized, comprehensive knowledge about where those food choices fit into a healthy diet.
You’re Eating Smarter (Y.E.S.), Student Programs’ nutrition program at Virginia Tech, has been educating students about food choices, campus resources, and general wellness for nearly 10 years, but is continually redefined and revamped as a result of student requests, technology trends, and developments in the field of nutrition.
The program offers personal counseling, group presentations, information cards, an online course and, an online food analysis database, where students can find out just how many calories are in that grande iced latte with double whipped cream.
The interactive food analysis program allows students to view daily offerings for each dining venue and select menu items to get the facts on serving size, calories, recommended daily value percentages, ingredients, and other nutrition information for each food item served in the dining centers. Students can also calculate the nutrition content and caloric intake for their total meal or day’s consumption with the click of a button.
The database is updated constantly to maintain accuracy, and periodic audits are conducted to ensure information from food manufacturers is up to date.
Administrative Dietitian Jenny Lindsey adopted and customized the database based on feedback she received from students.
“Students were asking about nutrition content totals for meals in the dining centers, and they wanted to be able to see the information from their rooms, before they decided where to eat,” Lindsey said. “Now students can keep tabs on exactly what they’re eating in the dining centers—a handy tool for customers with notoriously increasing demands on food quality.”
In March 2006, Student Programs organized a special event at D2 dining center in celebration of National Nutrition Month. Staff members helped educate students about good nutrition by hosting trivia games, suggesting healthy menu choices and offering one-on-one feedback. The event tied in with university athletics, featuring members of the Virginia Tech baseball and softball teams as nutrition spokespersons, and a series of collectible player cards with nutrition tips.
There was also an online course developed for the National Nutrition Month event that has been retained because of its popularity among students. The self-paced course covers campus health resources, updates to the United States Department of Agriculture food pyramid, tips on reading food labels, healthy eating advice tailored to each dining center, and other information on living a healthy lifestyle. Participants get personalized nutrition advice based on their food and exercise diaries and learn to set realistic goals to help them make better decisions about nutrition.
The Y.E.S. program includes a series of table cards published throughout the year in which students can read about pertinent topics like portion control, eating disorders and food safety while they dine. There are also brochures available in the dining centers that summarize the Y.E.S. program and provide information about making healthy food choices and other nutrition issues.
Lindsey also makes nutrition-related presentations for residence hall groups, theme housing communities, and academic classes and conducts personal counseling sessions with parents and students. Presentations cover topics like eating well on campus, the “freshman 15,” and the effect of nutrition on study habits. Counseling sessions help parents and students get acclimated with on-campus dining and address special dietary needs like food allergies.
“We’re willing to change with the times,” Lindsey said. “We want to make programs that students will respond to. That’s why we’re here.”